And so the longest running Tour de France of all time finally comes to an end. No fewer than 469 days after the 2006 race left Paris, the winner will finally be confirmed with the presentation of a yellow jersey in Madrid next Monday.
To be honest, it's relief to have the whole Landis affair settled and the 'is he/isn't he?' question of Oscar Pereiro being the 2006 champion finally answered. The Tour following Lance's seven-year domination of the event was always going to be strange one, but no one could have expected the farce we ended up with.
In the end, though, the race has a worthy winner. Pereiro was way out of the running coming out of the Pyrenees and saw a chance to redeem himself on the transitional stage into Montélimar and ended up, thanks to the race's lack of true 'patron', getting the biggest break of his cycling life. Way off the pace during the first half of the race, Pereiro rode as well as anyone during the second half and was only overhauled by the drug-fuelled Landis on the penultimate day.
Until now the Spaniard has had to be content with an impromptu display in a clothes shop window in the Galician town of Porriño to record his Tour success, but on Monday he'll get the full works - a jersey presentation from Tour director Christian Prudhomme with all kinds of politicians and celebs looking on - and he'll also be able to start trading on his notoriety as a Tour winner.
It's perhaps been pointed out before, but one strange thing about Pereiro's win is that the now succeeds (precedes?) Alberto Contador in winning a Tour he looked set to finish second in. True, Contador did wear yellow in Paris, but surely wouldn't have done had Michael Rasmussen not been ejected. Let's hope it's not a trend, and that next year's winner reaches Paris without his integrity in question.
© BikeRadar 2007